President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo along with the seven new foreign envoys in front of the State Palace in Jakarta on Feb. 4, 2021. (Photo Courtesy of @jokowi)

From Food to Leadership in Asean: New Envoys Shower Indonesia with Praise

BY :JAYANTY NADA SHOFA

FEBRUARY 05, 2021

Jakarta. Seven new envoys of friendly countries showered Indonesia with praises as they began their ambassadorial duties.

On Thursday, the ambassadors presented their letters of credence to President Joko " Jokowi" Widodo at the State Palace in Jakarta. 

Among these envoys are Pakistan Ambassador Muhammad Hassan, India’s Manoj Kumar Bharti, and Jaroslav Dolecek from the Czech Republic. Also presenting their credentials are Japan’s Kanasugi Kenji, Romania’s Adrian Balanescu, Fiji’s Amenatave Vakasuvuwaqa, and Mohammad Mostafizur Rahman from Bangladesh.

The letters marked the beginning of the diplomats' ambassadorship. They were also off to a good start by expressing their admiration towards Indonesia and interests in strengthening the relations.

Leadership in Asean

Indonesia earned praise from Indian Ambassador Manoj for its leadership in Asean.

"I truly admire Indonesia's culture and leadership position in Asean. [...] I look forward to strengthening the already close strategic relationship between our two countries," Manoj said as seen in the virtual broadcast on the Presidential Secretariat Youtube channel.

India has long been a dialogue partner to Asean. At the 17th Asean-India Summit last November, President Jokowi encouraged the bloc to foster stronger ties with India on the digital economy and medical capacity against the Covid-19 pandemic. Jokowi also hoped India could eventually join the world’s largest trade pact, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

“Expanding India’s connectivity with Asean is the key to strengthening cooperation in various fields,” Jokowi said at the summit, as quoted from the Cabinet Secretariat official website.

According to the Trade Ministry, the trade between Indonesia and India was worth $14.17 billion last year. In 2019, the two countries had set a $50 billion target for bilateral trade by 2025.

Sharing Similarities

Indonesia and Pakistan share similarities as fellow Muslim-majority countries and as member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

"It is an honor to become the ambassador of Pakistan — the world's second-largest Muslim country — to Indonesia as the first largest [Muslim] country. This relationship had been nurtured by our founding fathers, even before the independence from our respective colonial powers," Pakistan Ambassador Hassan said.

“Since my first visit to Indonesia in 2002, I have fallen in love with this country. I love the food, the people, and the culture, which is quite similar to that of Pakistan."

Hassan highlighted President Jokowi's visit to Pakistan in 2018 gave further impetus in the bilateral ties. The diplomat hopes to deepen the existing relations in all fields, particularly on economy and trade. The Trade Ministry stated the total trade between Pakistan and Indonesia amounted to $2.58 billion in January-December 2020.

“Itadakimasu!”

Like his foodie predecessor Masafumi Ishii, Japanese ambassador Kanasugi cannot get enough of Indonesian cuisine. “I would like to enjoy every minute of my stay in Jakarta, including the delicious Indonesian food,” Kanasugi said.

Ishii garnered attention for frequently posting his lunch menu with Indonesian dishes on Instagram. Kanasugi is likely to follow Ishii’s “traditions” as he kicked off his first day in the office with a lunch post. He also looks forward to tasting more varieties of Indonesian food.

Trade Ministry data revealed the Japan-Indonesia trade reached $24.3 billion in January-December 2020. Last year, Japan offered a 50 billion yen (around $473 million) loan to Indonesia to fight Covid-19.

Indonesian cuisine had also left a good impression on Czech Republic Ambassador Dolecek.

"My wife and I have stayed here for 20 days. We have fallen in love with the food," Dolecek said.

According to the Cabinet Secretariat's official website, the bilateral trade between Indonesia and Czech was valued at $146.75 million as of May 2020.

50 Years of Relations

Envoy Mostafizur praised Indonesia for its 50-year-long relation with Bangladesh.

“Indonesia was one of the few countries in Southeast Asia to recognize Bangladesh immediately after the independence. [...] As it was in 1972, we hope to celebrate the 50 years of bilateral relations in a very fitting manner,” the diplomat said.

Government statistics show Indonesia-Bangladesh trade reached $1.76 billion in January-December 2020. The Indonesia-Bangladesh Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), which would reduce tariffs on traded goods, is currently in negotiations.

Local Friendliness

Romanian ambassador Balanescu complimented how welcoming the local Indonesians are to foreigners. 

"The best part of Indonesia is its people. They are very welcoming and friendly. Wherever we go, people would greet us with smiles and nice words," Balanescu said. 

The envoy pointed out a strong people-to-people relation is evident in the many intercultural marriages between Indonesians and Romanians. The number of Indonesians studying abroad in Romania also reflects this bond. 

Likewise, Fiji Ambassador Amenatave noted the humbleness of the locals.

“It is a beautiful country. The people are humble and nice to interact with. I also enjoyed visiting Semarang and Bali,” Amenatave said.

According to the Trade Ministry, the Romania-Indonesia total trade stood at $153.42 million from January to December 2020. Whilst the total trade between Fiji and Indonesia amounted to $21.52 million in the same period.

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